Diminished Ovarian Reserve (DOR) is a condition that at one point or another affects all women. The primary function of the ovary is to produce viable eggs that can be fertilized by sperm, and eventually become a new life. As we age, however, the function of our ovaries slowly begins to diminish, and eventually halts– thus creating menopause. While DOR is inevitable as we get older, it can sometimes occur in younger women as a result of health issues, such as accidents or illness.
If you are dealing with this diagnosis, you are not by any means alone. At this point in time, diminished ovarian reserve is a factor in at least 10% of all infertility cases at fertility treatment centers. When a woman is being tested for the possibility of diminished ovarian reserve, doctors usually look to a few key hormonal tests: Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH), Luteinizing Hormone (LH), and Estradiol (E2). If these hormones are out of balance, they can be biomarkers for the condition. FSH and LH often tend to be too high in those with diminished ovarian reserve, while E2 tends to be too low.
So…now that we know all of the cold hard facts, we have to wonder what we can do in order to try and replenish the reproductive system once a diagnosis of diminished ovarian reserve is made. In reality, the options that many women are presented with remain quite limited. But a recent study performed by the acupuncture department at the Guang’anmen Hospital a has allowed us to examine the effects of acupuncture on improving this condition.
This study was observational, and examined a group of 21 women who were all trying to conceive, but were diagnosed and struggling with diminished ovarian reserve. They agreed to attend regular acupuncture appointments during a 3 month time span, having their FSH, LH, and E2 levels taken prior to starting the study, and every 4 weeks throughout the duration of the study. Their results were quite incredible. They found over the course of the 3 month period the women were receiving acupuncture treatments, their FSH and LH levels fell continuously, while their E2 levels rose– both of which are important for counteracting diminished ovarian reserve. Subsequent tests performed after the completion of the study showed that these results lasted for about 3 months after the treatments stopped.
Even more interestingly, many women reported an improvement in mood and decrease in premenstrual and menstrual symptoms, and that their cycles became more regular. While the exact reason that acupuncture helps to improve diminished ovarian reserve is not yet known, it has been shown to help modulate the endocrine system in past studies of acupuncture’s effect on hormonal and gynecological issues.
Hopefully more studies will continue to be performed on acupuncture’s effects on diminished ovarian reserve and other fertility struggles, but for the moment, this study certainly seems to have promising results for including an acupuncturist on your fertility treatment team.
Wang Y1, Li Y2, Chen R2, Cui X1, Yu J1, Liu Z1. Electroacupuncture for reproductive hormone levels in patients with diminished ovarian reserve: a prospective observational study. Acupunct Med. 2016 May 13. PMID: 27177929. [PubMed] [Read by QxMD]